Canadians love Maui. The draw? It may have something to do with miles of pristine sand, azure waters, and tropical flowers’ fragrance wafting through the air. Visitors find more than beaches, hotels, and resorts in this paradise. Aside from farm-to-table restaurants, boutiques, craft breweries and the best beaches in the world, Maui has history, mist-shrouded rain forests, majestic mountains, picturesque villages and miles of hiking trails – just awaiting adventurous visitors.
Let’s look at what I discovered on a solo trip to Maui.
A ROAD TRIP THROUGH UPCOUNTRY MAUI
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
Haleakala Park covers 33,265 acres on the southeast part of the island. More than half is wilderness. It’s a designated International Biosphere Reserve with wildlife that exists nowhere else.
Part of the park borders the ocean, where you might see dolphins, whales and sea turtles. You can hike through rainforests or mountains, bamboo forests or along the coast. It’s open to hiking, camping, swimming and sightseeing all year. Camping spots are booked thru the NPS and fill up fast.
The Haleakala crater, a dormant volcano, dominates most of the island. Visitors can climb the summit, 3,000 m (10,000 ft) and deep into the crater, 790 m (2,600 ft), where they find a barren Mars-like surface with soft red volcanic earth. It starkly contrasts the tropical coastline abounding with lush vegetation, streams and waterfalls.
Haleakala means “The House of the Sun”, and this site pays homage to the sun. Before dawn, in the cold and dark, visitors flock to witness the sunrise. It’s so popular that reservations are required; some come later for the sunset.
KULA BOTANICAL GARDEN
Warren and Helen McCord opened the Kula Botanical Garden in 1971. It was built to preserve as much of the natural terrain as possible. Gentle paths wind through collections of plant species, including orchids, bromeliads and proteas, a bird sanctuary and a flowing stream. You can also see an aviary, koi pond, and Hawaiian Nene goose or relax in the picnic areas. Magnificent views of the valley and West Maui Mountains and unusual volcanic rock formations exist.
Maui has a rich ‘paniolo’ (Hawaiian cowboy) history. In 1838, King Kamehameha III ordered the first paniolos to train Hawaiians in managing wild cattle. The history of this era can be seen in a small town halfway up the Haleakala Volcano called Makawao. Here, at the Makawao History Museum, you’ll find traces of the paniolo heritage and plantation life going back to the 19th century.
This town still has a few hitching posts and quaint wooden storefronts with tin roofs. There’s lots of shopping available, everything from high-end boutiques to art galleries and shops selling locally made products. You should drop by Rodeo General Store for supplies, then pick up donuts and sweet treats from the T. Komoda Store & Bakery, a Makawao institution since 1916.
MAKAWAO FOREST and KAHAKAPOA LOOP TRAIL
You can’t beat the Kahakapoa Trail for visitors into biking and hiking. It’s a mecca for families and thrill-seeking adventurers alike. Located just four miles from downtown Makawao it’s a 5.75-mile loop parallel to a gorge through Makawao Forest – a 2,093-acre park. Cook pines and eucalyptus line the trail with tropical ash, white ginger, le’ie vines, ohia, koa and Hanapepe trees. Much of the area was planted in the early 1900s. It can get cold in this area, and Makawao is a rainy region, so caution may be necessary as the paths can get slippery.
Polipoli Spring State Park is a lesser know park on a quiet road with about 20 switchbacks to traverse high above the town of Kula. The Polipoli Trail is a two-mile loop, part of a 30-mile network of trails on the mountainside. There’s a recreation area with a parking lot at the trailhead where you can access the loop. This is the second highest-elevation hike on the island, up 6,400 feet, with amazing views of the beaches below. Keep in mind you need a 4-wheel terrain vehicle to navigate this park.
BEYOND UPCOUNTRY, EXPLORE THE HISTORY OF LAHAINA
Lahaina, formerly a trading/whaling centre and capital of the Hawaiian kingdom under King Kamehameha III, is a National Historic Landmark District.
Here are a few highlights from the self-guided Lahaina Historic Walking Tour.
The Baldwin House: Once home to Protestant missionaries, this museum depicts missionary life in a Hawaiian Village.
Wo Hing Temple and the Lahaina Jodo Mission trace Hawaii’s early Chinese and Japanese influences.
The Banyan Tree, planted in 1873, marks the arrival of the first American Protestant mission. It’s the largest banyan tree in the U.S.
WHERE TO STAY
Napili Kai Resort, Kapula
Located on Napili Bay, with tranquil waters perfect for swimming, snorkelling or stand-up paddle boarding, the resort is a favourite with Canadians. Returning visitors love this property, which remains faithful to the Canadian founders’ original ideals of a quiet, low-rise, traditional Hawaiian-style resort.
There are luxurious, large, fully equipped rooms and suites, stunning sunsets, open-air dining and a Wednesday Mai Tai social get-together. For more information, visit Napili Kai
Kaanapali Beach Hotel
Resting on Kaanapali’s North Beach, it’s known as “Hawaii’s most Hawaiian Hotel”. There are well-equipped, comfortable rooms overlooking lush gardens. Activities for the whole family include snorkelling and many cultural activities (conch shell blowing, ‘ukulele and hula classes, to name a few).
The hotel is staffed by local Hawaiians (many have been with the hotel for years) who lovingly share their Hawaiian heritage with guests.
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Travel assistance was provided by Ka’anapali Beach Resort, Napili Kai Beach Resort and Go Hawaii, who did not review this article before publication.